Yes on 56: The super-majority is super-bad

By Bill Gallagher of Portland, Oregon. For 25 years, Bill Gallagher has been a fixture in Portland radio, including seven years as the host of the top-rated "Bill Gallagher Show" on KXL. Until last month, he was the news director at KPAM. Previously, Bill contributed "Home on the Range..."

I'm getting almost emotional as I read the arguments for and against Ballot Measure 56 in the Voter's Pamphlet.

This must be how a combat veteran feels seeing the same wars being fought over and over again.

A long time ago on KXL I argued on-air with Bill Sizemore. (Don was always a much better guest.)

I never lost my temper, but I got pretty hot when the topic was the unique-to-Oregon, vote-suppressing, process-perverting, indolence-rewarding, so-called Super Majority.

For anyone who's not down with how it works, sit up and blink twice. Here we go: In order to pass measures on the ballot that will raise taxes it's not enough that a majority of voters vote yes. No, MORE THAN a majority of the registered voters have to actually vote.

So a measure could pass but fail. You could get a majority of the votes but with a turn out below 50% you're screwed.

Don and Bill cooked up this Super Majority scheme because they got tired of seeing public service money measures passed in March and September. They couldn't get out the NO vote so they figured out a way the naysayers could get their way: By NOT VOTING. That way they could sink the spending measures and take their ball and go home.

Ballot Measure 56 is supported by virtually every organization that has a stake in getting these money measures passed. Why not? One small fire district saw its levy defeated because just seven voters didn't vote.

And here's a dirty little secret: There are lots of voters registered to vote who will never vote. They've moved away or died. But they DO vote because they're still registered. So the number of actual voters is artifically high. And that means you have to get 50% plus one of an unreal number of voters.

Registrars and County Clerks say they purge these non-existent voters regularly. To which I would say, after watching several ballots arrive for a brother-in-law living with me long after he'd moved away, YEAH, RIGHT!

I'll concede that some public service spending measures have been slipped onto a low-turnout election ballot. But the solution to that isn't the Super Majority .50 caliber machine gun. The solution is the fly swatter that is MEASURE 56. VOTE YES.

I'd recommend that if you're only going to vote on one ballot measure that you make it YES ON 56. But there are WAY too many other good ones on this ballot.


  • (Show?)

    Bill, glad to see that you're staying engaged, and sharing your thoughts here. Good explanation of the supermajority.

    It was Phil Keisling who eradicated the lingering doubts I had about the supermajority a year or two ago. He pointed out that a referendum on ANY subject is potentially important, and creating a special class for only revenue measures is entirely arbitrary. If there are concerns about turnout and voter awareness, they are better addressed in other ways. In fact, limiting elections to only four times a year has already been accomplished.

    Measure 56 doesn't really go far enough, because it will still be impossible to pass a revenue measure during ANY election in an odd-numbered year...but it's a strong step in the right direction. Maybe with a strong enough "yes" vote, the legislature will feel empowered to remove more of the supermajority requirement. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

  • Tom O Mighty (unverified)

    [Off-topic gibberish from out-of-state troll deleted.]

  • djk (unverified)

    I'll concede that some public service spending measures have been slipped onto a low-turnout election ballot.

    In this era of vote-by-mail, there's NO SUCH THING as a low-turnout election. Everyone gets a ballot in every election, and there's no longer any such thing as slipping a tax measure past the voters unnoticed. You can vote "yes," "no" or you can "abstain" by withholding your ballot, but you pretty much can't avoid "turning out" to vote. Not voting is simply your way of showing up and saying "I don't care".

  • Dan Sellman (unverified)

    Bill, most people's wages do not grow as fast as government expansion! I do not get a 20% raise a year - do you?

    Most people these days are getting by on less - maybe you media libs aren't but alot of other people are.

    Simply put: we can not give government the opportunity to continue to grow at %20+ a year. If you want bigger government - send in more $$ to the government, but don't force me to.

  • (Show?)

    Dan -- So, just vote NO on the measures. But you should have to vote NO to say no.

    Otherwise, you're letting dead people and people who've moved away make decisions for the rest of us -- seems I've been hearing lately that conservatives are opposed to that.

  • Mel (unverified)

    " should have to vote NO to say no."

    Absolutely! I can't understand why this measure was never overturned. To think when I take the time to vote, some yahoo's vote, who can't be bothered to vote, holds more precedence? ERRRR.....

    I'm SO hoping this measure passes. It's long past due.

  • Mel (unverified)

    some yahoo's vote

    Should read "some yahoo's NON vote"


  • John Muller (unverified)

    A great example of why we need to keep the double majority. It is obvious West Linn did not want this levy passed. One has to wonder why the levy showed up again on the ballot immediately after Nov 2006.

    The numbers speak for themselves. 3-236 CITY OF WEST LINN 5-YEAR LEVY FOR POLICE SERVICES Double majority not in effect. Yes . . . . . . . . . . . . 5,085 47.09% No. . . . . . . . . . . . . 5,713 52.91% VOTER TURNOUT - TOTAL . . . . . . 41.38% 3-259 CITY OF WEST LINN 5-YEAR OPERATING LOCAL OPTION LEVY FOR POLICE SERVICES Double majority in effect Yes . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,802 72.17 No. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,852 27.83 3-267 CITY OF WEST LINN FIVE-YEAR OPERATING LOCAL OPTION LEVY FOR POLICE SERVICE Double majority in effect Yes . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,793 78.21 No. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,335 21.79

  • Harry (unverified)


    A good example of the "goverment class's" continued 'election shopping' until they get an election that they can win.

    First you lose when over 10,000 people show up and vote it down. So you come back at the voters in March and try again when you know that only 60% of the people who came out last time (but really only 41% of the registered voters will) actually show up. But you still fall short. So you come back again in May, begging for more money. Again, hoping that only the yes votes(*) show up to vote. When does it stop? When 10-20% of the voters get to tell the other 80-90% how much their taxes will have to increase.

    That is not democracy. Keep the Double Majority. Taxes that are worth raising will pass a Nov election, if it has real support of the voters in the community.

    (*) Yes votes = people with a vested interest, ie feeding off the public trough.

  • John Muller (unverified)

    I suspect Mr. Gallagher got the "7 votes" story from the Voter's Pamphlet:

    "In May 2005, the Lower McKay Fire District had a levy fail due to double majority because 7 people did not vote."

    This written on page 56 by Members of the Legislature no less. This looks to be an incorrect statement.

    30-55 LOWER MCKAY FIRE 5 YEAR LEVY Yes......52 69.33% No.......23 30.67% Over votes.......0 Under votes......8

    <h2>There were 815 registered voters in Lower McKay in May 2005. Only 83 people voted on the levy. Out of 815, that is only 10.2% return. 7 more votes either way wouldn't have made any difference.</h2>
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